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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Lou Harpr said:
Ngaio Marsh books take a long time to get to the murder but it never bothers me because I enjoy the writing, but contemporary custom is to introduce the murder early on. Maybe you could introduce another crime/mystery at the start to engage the readers and work your way up to the real case.
Thanks Lou ... thats excatly what I have done after reading yours and others comments.
 

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In a couple of the Cat Who.... books by Lilian Jackson Braun (yes, they're somewhat ancient), the murder takes place halfway through the book, or in some cases takes place in another location away from the main character.  In fact there are a couple of books in which the MC solves a murder that occurred years in the past.  (However, in the interest of full disclosure, the Cat Who... books were starting to decline in quality toward the end, so make of that what you will.  ;) )
 

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I can't help but feel that most of the stuff mentioned here fits a regular murder mystery, not necessarily a cozy. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but when someone tells me their story is a cozy, I think first and foremost that this will be a fluffy, light murder mystery, emphasis on the light and fluffy. Absolutely no gore and often lots of humor. I consider Christie a traditional mystery writer more than a cozy mystery writer. At least the stories with Poirot.
 

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juliatheswede said:
I can't help but feel that most of the stuff mentioned here fits a regular murder mystery, not necessarily a cozy. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but when someone tells me their story is a cozy, I think first and foremost that this will be a fluffy, light murder mystery, emphasis on the light and fluffy. Absolutely no gore and often lots of humor. I consider Christie a traditional mystery writer more than a cozy mystery writer. At least the stories with Poirot.
Originally, most of the classic mystery writers were considered "cozy" writers. It was simply an insult hurled at them by writers of hard-boiled fiction. And it included anything not gritty. There is a generation gap now surrounding the Cozy -- those who started in on cozy books from before the mystery publishing crash of the 1990s, and those who started reading them after. It's very upsetting for those of use who love old cozies -- and yes, they are cozy, and clean and comfortable books, about murder -- for the category to narrow so much it excludes every single one of the top writers in our field.

But you are right that what is being published today -- and the audience that looks for those books -- is much narrower and more strict, and I think that any writer who wants to write a cozy should be aware of that. If your book is exactly like the previous generation's cozy mysteries, then it probably should be called "traditional" even though it is actually cozy in tone and subject matter.

However, I do think that the genre is broadening out again. It was always the very most popular genre of all, and the one with the widest variety of subgenres, but it got slammed by a series of forces in publishing. (I wrote about this in a blog post "The Murder of the Mystery Genre.")

It seems that the general audience is coming back, and that means that restrictions are going to go out the window -- but new ones will form.

Camille
 

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juliatheswede said:
I can't help but feel that most of the stuff mentioned here fits a regular murder mystery, not necessarily a cozy. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but when someone tells me their story is a cozy, I think first and foremost that this will be a fluffy, light murder mystery, emphasis on the light and fluffy. Absolutely no gore and often lots of humor. I consider Christie a traditional mystery writer more than a cozy mystery writer. At least the stories with Poirot.
For me, a cozy is pretty light, as you say. Poirot is NOT Cozy; Miss Marple is sometimes. The actual 'kill' is never described. Tommy and Tuppence were actually closer to a modern cozy.

The investigator has to be an amateur -- who is probably a big headache for the local law in that they keep meddling because they think the professional investigators are ignoring critical clues and/or not competent.

There's often some semblance of a romance, but that's not to say that it IS a Romance.

Investigators are almost always female, often single, and usually have a regular activity that means that it's not completely unbelievable that she keeps tripping over dead bodies. :) I'm thinking a series when I say that -- think Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote who lives in the murder capital of Maine. :D

There are popular cozy series where the sleuth runs a bookshop, a bakery, an antique/used clothing shop, is a realtor, or delivery person. But there is also a series that features a chef as the amateur detective. He works with a female professional detective. Which is a nice twist. :)

The amateur's specialized knowledge is often critical to the solution.

She (usually a she, as I said, so I'm sticking with that pronoun) may also have a sidekick. One or the other one is often single and looking . . . which is where the hint of romance often comes in. She may have a close friend or relative who is a more professional sort of investigator -- who spends most of the book telling her to stay out of it.

It's usually set in a small town, or in a very specific neighborhood of a larger city. Everyone knows everyone. Always suspect the strangers, but sometimes the killer is someone they've known all their lives or closely related.

The body doesn't have to show up RIGHT away, but there ought to be something weird that happens in the first chapter . . . maybe a mysterious something going missing or a break in or something like that.

Red Herrings are perfectly appropriate, but the reader must be able to figure it out based on clues provided.

The denouement is usually triggered by the main sleuth getting herself into trouble/putting herself in danger either on purpose or accidentally. But please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't make her too stupid to live! ::)
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
daringnovelist said:
Originally, most of the classic mystery writers were considered "cozy" writers. It was simply an insult hurled at them by writers of hard-boiled fiction. And it included anything not gritty. There is a generation gap now surrounding the Cozy -- those who started in on cozy books from before the mystery publishing crash of the 1990s, and those who started reading them after. It's very upsetting for those of use who love old cozies -- and yes, they are cozy, and clean and comfortable books, about murder -- for the category to narrow so much it excludes every single one of the top writers in our field.

But you are right that what is being published today -- and the audience that looks for those books -- is much narrower and more strict, and I think that any writer who wants to write a cozy should be aware of that. If your book is exactly like the previous generation's cozy mysteries, then it probably should be called "traditional" even though it is actually cozy in tone and subject matter.

However, I do think that the genre is broadening out again. It was always the very most popular genre of all, and the one with the widest variety of subgenres, but it got slammed by a series of forces in publishing. (I wrote about this in a blog post "The Murder of the Mystery Genre.")

It seems that the general audience is coming back, and that means that restrictions are going to go out the window -- but new ones will form.

Camille
You have a wonderful knowledge of the genre Camille. Thanks for sharing it.

My understanding of a cosy it that they typically:

- The protagonist is an amateur sleuth, usually a female who is reluctant to get involved but does anyway.
- The protagonist is often assisted by a sidekick
- Is set in a familiar place such as an English village. Same location used in each story in series so it become familiar
- A regular set of characters who are the friends, family and locals of the setting.
- A Murder occurs though not described in detail and not focused on police procedures
- The victim is typically someone that lots of people wanted dead so anyone could have done it
- Clues and red herrings are threaded throughout allowing the protagonist (and astute reader) to piece it together
- The authorities investigating are typically incompetent in some manner and miss vital clues or jump to the wrong conclusions.
- Protagonist solves the mystery after a twist in the story line
- There is a reveal scene at the end where Protagonist identifies the killer who is usually the least suspected
- Graphic violence, sex scenes and bad language are virtually non existent
- Characters and their relationships that develop during the story are the real key to holding readers interests.

Anything I have missed?

I guess the key things in my mind that make it a cosy and not just a traditional mystery is the confined setting, the nature of the protagonist, and the toned down nature of the story by comparison to a hard boilded.

Just my thoughts. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Ann in Arlington said:
For me, a cozy is pretty light, as you say. Poirot is NOT Cozy; Miss Marple is sometimes. The actual 'kill' is never described. Tommy and Tuppence were actually closer to a modern cozy.

The investigator has to be an amateur -- who is probably a big headache for the local law in that they keep meddling because they think the professional investigators are ignoring critical clues and/or not competent.

There's often some semblance of a romance, but that's not to say that it IS a Romance.

Investigators are almost always female, often single, and usually have a regular activity that means that it's not completely unbelievable that she keeps tripping over dead bodies. :) I'm thinking a series when I say that -- think Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote who lives in the murder capital of Maine. :D

There are popular cozy series where the sleuth runs a bookshop, a bakery, an antique/used clothing shop, is a realtor, or delivery person. But there is also a series that features a chef as the amateur detective. He works with a female professional detective. Which is a nice twist. :)

The amateur's specialized knowledge is often critical to the solution.

She (usually a she, as I said, so I'm sticking with that pronoun) may also have a sidekick. One or the other one is often single and looking . . . which is where the hint of romance often comes in. She may have a close friend or relative who is a more professional sort of investigator -- who spends most of the book telling her to stay out of it.

It's usually set in a small town, or in a very specific neighborhood of a larger city. Everyone knows everyone. Always suspect the strangers, but sometimes the killer is someone they've known all their lives or closely related.

The body doesn't have to show up RIGHT away, but there ought to be something weird that happens in the first chapter . . . maybe a mysterious something going missing or a break in or something like that.

Red Herrings are perfectly appropriate, but the reader must be able to figure it out based on clues provided.

The denouement is usually triggered by the main sleuth getting herself into trouble/putting herself in danger either on purpose or accidentally. But please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't make her too stupid to live! ::)
That is a wonderful summary thanks Ann. Echoes a lot of what I listed in my post at the same time as yours. You have some great thoughts here which I am going to factor in to the story line of my book so thank you.
 

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Ann in Arlington said:
For me, a cozy is pretty light, as you say. Poirot is NOT Cozy; Miss Marple is sometimes. The actual 'kill' is never described. Tommy and Tuppence were actually closer to a modern cozy.

The investigator has to be an amateur -- who is probably a big headache for the local law in that they keep meddling because they think the professional investigators are ignoring critical clues and/or not competent.

There's often some semblance of a romance, but that's not to say that it IS a Romance.

Investigators are almost always female, often single, and usually have a regular activity that means that it's not completely unbelievable that she keeps tripping over dead bodies. :) I'm thinking a series when I say that -- think Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote who lives in the murder capital of Maine. :D

There are popular cozy series where the sleuth runs a bookshop, a bakery, an antique/used clothing shop, is a realtor, or delivery person. But there is also a series that features a chef as the amateur detective. He works with a female professional detective. Which is a nice twist. :)

The amateur's specialized knowledge is often critical to the solution.

She (usually a she, as I said, so I'm sticking with that pronoun) may also have a sidekick. One or the other one is often single and looking . . . which is where the hint of romance often comes in. She may have a close friend or relative who is a more professional sort of investigator -- who spends most of the book telling her to stay out of it.

It's usually set in a small town, or in a very specific neighborhood of a larger city. Everyone knows everyone. Always suspect the strangers, but sometimes the killer is someone they've known all their lives or closely related.

The body doesn't have to show up RIGHT away, but there ought to be something weird that happens in the first chapter . . . maybe a mysterious something going missing or a break in or something like that.

Red Herrings are perfectly appropriate, but the reader must be able to figure it out based on clues provided.

The denouement is usually triggered by the main sleuth getting herself into trouble/putting herself in danger either on purpose or accidentally. But please, PLEASE, PLEASE don't make her too stupid to live! ::)
Yes, this is exactly what I think of when someone tells me they've written a cozy. Thanks for the summary, Ann. Agree that Poirot is not cozy, but that Ms. Maples might be...
 

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Hi Friends:

Rather than start anew, I stumbled across this thread and thought I'd add my questions.

I'm used to the old-school cozy, which I think of as Miss Marple. Is the main difference with old and new, that the new has to have the hint of romance? I'm also noting the modern device of what I call the venue gimmick: bakery, craft shop, antique shop, fabric shop, complete with recipes, craft ideas, etc. Is this trope hard and fast for the new cozy?

Finally, page count. Are we in category romance territory, say 55-65k? Or do most modern cozy readers demand more?
 

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Hi MooreFiction, cozy mysteries are so fun! Best of luck with your publication. As a mystery fan since I could read books, definitely my advice is to read a lot of cozies, especially the master Agatha Christie. She's amazing and has a lot of books to choose from. There's also a tv series made from her novels (Poirot & Miss Marple from PBS), I'd say to watch those as well. M.C. Beaton is pretty good too and her Agatha Raisin novels are hilariously murderous. :)

The best way to learn a genre is to read non-stop in it, absorb it, and roll around in it. Books, movies, plays...yes, those murder mystery plays are super fun as well.

Far as word count, cozies tend to be around 70ishk.
 

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I say, write your mystery the way you think it works best and worry less about "how it has to be".
In some books, it can be great when the initial conflict takes up quite a bit of space and the reader has to wonder who of all these people will be the victim. The knowledge that a murder is coming can make for very compelling reading.
Do your thing and do it well.
 

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Casper Bogart said:
Hi Friends:

Rather than start anew, I stumbled across this thread and thought I'd add my questions.

I'm used to the old-school cozy, which I think of as Miss Marple. Is the main difference with old and new, that the new has to have the hint of romance? I'm also noting the modern device of what I call the venue gimmick: bakery, craft shop, antique shop, fabric shop, complete with recipes, craft ideas, etc. Is this trope hard and fast for the new cozy?

Finally, page count. Are we in category romance territory, say 55-65k? Or do most modern cozy readers demand more?
I sure hope the food/crafts venue gimmick isn't essential, as I have one series set in a research lab and the other simply in a particular neighborhood. My characters in the first series are a team of five scientists and a nosy Italian-American widow in the second. And far from her becoming involved reluctantly, the perfectly competent police fight a constant battle to discourage her.
I had a look at where I committed my murders, so to speak, and over 14 books, the average was on page 44. (that's in books of 75,000 words for the first series and 65,000 for the second). There are also three books where the murder happens (or the body is discovered) in the prologue and then the narrative catches up to it later.
 

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In Simon Brett's Charles Paris mysteries the amateur sleuth is a hard drinking actor, who keeps stumbling into murders. In Ngaio Marsh' books it's a police detective--most of the time. All cozies I can think of have a set of characters from the start, one dies, and another one is the murderer. The investigation is mostly about digging into the characters, as opposed to following police procedures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Thanks everyone for your responses. They have been great to read. Apologies also for the delay in getting back here to this thread.
Well I am happy to report that I finished my first cozy novel 'Murder At Ash Castle' and published it under the pen name Jessica Moore.

Thought I should go with a pen name as I have not seen many cozies written by males.

The murder ended up in the fifth chapter and I think it works well. Overall I was very happy with the result given it was my first novel and I really still learning what I am doing. Thanks again everyone for your input and taking the time to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.
 

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ElizaDee said:
You're welcome! For Christie, if memory serves, it varied, depending on whether Poirot happened to be on the scene when a murder just happened to occur (in which case, it happened a bit into the story) or whether the story would start with Inspector Japp showing up and asking for help--but that's a bit different since he's a professional detective, when most cozies now have amateur solvers. (Plus it's not a very good gauge of what sells now, as opposed to in the 1930s...)

I also noticed that, in the book I mentioned above in which the murder happened the latest of the five, the woman who eventually becomes the victim is introduced at exactly the 12.5% mark, so the inciting event in that case is her appearance--and that book won an Agatha for best first novel...
Sorry to drag up an old thread, but I have been looking into this genre and as I understand it, the cozy part is that the detective is not a professional. So, by that token, is Poirot 'cozy' at all? I can see where Miss Marple would be, but Poirot was a professional detective.
 

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Doglover said:
Sorry to drag up an old thread, but I have been looking into this genre and as I understand it, the cozy part is that the detective is not a professional. So, by that token, is Poirot 'cozy' at all? I can see where Miss Marple would be, but Poirot was a professional detective.
Since he's a professional detective, Poirot mysteries are not considered cozies.
 

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juliatheswede said:
Since he's a professional detective, Poirot mysteries are not considered cozies.
They are by me. :) I think "cosy" really just refers to the tone of the books. The more grit and authenticity, the less cosy it is. Poirot mysteries are not in any way gory or disturbing, but are character-based rather than procedure-based. That, to me, makes them cosy.
 
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